By Sola Ogundipe, Health Editor

Low libido. It happens to  a lot of men and women, but few want to talk about it. Men don’t like to talk about it, and it’s not a favourite topic with women. But loss of libido in men or inhibited sexual desire in women stresses marriages more than any other sexual dysfunction.

Love-gone-sour

One night when Tolu got home from a romantic dinner with Yinka, his wife, candles were burning in their bedroom and soft music playing in the background. “I had taken a few drinks and the atmosphere was right for intimacy. Yinka, who had set up the room as a surprise, was undressed and ready for action in a flash, but I suddenly realized I wasn’t ready. I just wanted to lie down and go to sleep.

“It was not that I was drunk or suffered ‘power failure’; I just wasn’t in the mood for sex. Yinka and I have what could pass as an average sex life, so it was difficult explaining the situation to her. She didn’t find it funny because it was not the first time such would happen. In fact she got very angry and refused to speak to me for a long time. “

This confession from Tolu, a 40-year-old father of two children and husband of a 38-year-old woman is not unusual. Physical issues that can cause low libido include low testosterone, prescription medicines, too little or too much exercise, and alcohol and drug use. Psychological issues can include depression, stress, and problems in a relationship.

Gbenro, a technician told Saturday Vanguard that after menopause, his wife’s sexual appetite doubled unexpectedly. The 55-year-old recounted that Sarah, his 52-year-old wife and mother of four grown children had suddenly become “a tigress in bed” in recent times, following her post-menopausal status.

“To be honest I used to consider myself as someone with a high sex drive, and my wife used to complain that I was too demanding. But that was when we were still having children. Now things have changed. She has stopped having periods, but she is more sexually active than ever and I am the one now complaining because I can’t keep up with her demand,” he said.

 

Sexual aversion

Long before Tracy was diagnosed with endometriosis (a disorder that affects women in their reproductive years), her life had turned permanently around for the worse. She and Mike, her husband have been married just two years, but their marriage is already in major trouble because she has a low sex drive and doesn’t at all want to be intimate.

There’s a part of Tracy that’s afraid to get intimate. She has just one word to describe sex – painful. Her aversion for sex is steeped in pain, excruciating pain every time she engages in penetrative sex. She suffers regularly with painful symptoms and bleeding and her situation seems to be hopeless.

“I hate to have sex as much as I fear to have sex,” Tracy told her doctor one day. “I feel like my world is falling apart because of this. I feel so horrible after sex,” she admitted, pointing out that it’s not that her husband cannot “please” her. “I just don’t like sex,” she admitted.

Data from research suggests that 43 percent of women and 31 percent of men report some degree of sexual dysfunction, surprisingly; it is a topic many people, especially women, are hesitant or embarrassed to discuss. Sexual problems occur in adults of all ages but in women, many factors can contribute to low libido. These include a lack of desire, hormonal changes, medical conditions and treatments, depression, pregnancy, stress, and fatigue. Boredom with regular sexual routines also may contribute to a lack of enthusiasm for sex, as can lifestyle factors, such as careers and the care of children.

 

Why men suffer low sex drive

Although it contradicts all the cultural beliefs of “manliness”, men can lose their libido. As a matter of fact, low sexual desire in men is probably one of the world’s best kept “open” secrets. Everybody knows or suspects this, but no one readily admits. Statistics reveal that an average of 20-25 percent of adult males suffers from low libido, but that is not the worst of the matter. The bigger problem may be that men so affected are often ashamed of speaking out.

A marriage therapist told Saturday Vanguard that low libido or low sex drive is often perceived as violation of a man’s sense of masculinity. It is such that the mere thought of being disinterested in sex, or being unable to “perform” sexually practically strikes terror into the heart of the average man. This is understandable. A man is more visually and physically wired sexually than a woman because his sense of self is usually tied up in his virility. But there is a growing gap between myth and reality when it comes to male desire. The plain truth is that more men are having less sex more often.

Sexual health is important at any age, and the desire for intimacy is expected to be timeless. While a 40 or 50-year-old man’s desire or sexual appetite may not be the same as it was in his 20s or 30s, it can still be very fulfilling to be sexually active in advanced age.

A lagging libido can be frustrating. After years of wanting sex all the time, some men say the lack of interest feels like losing an important part of who they are. Testosterone plays a critical role in a man’s sexual experience. Testosterone levels gradually decline throughout adulthood — about 1 percent each year after age 30 on average.

As a man ages, arousal and interest in sex may be a problem. Why does this happen? Lower levels of testosterone can dampen desire. But that’s not the only reason. With advancing age, life stressors like money, children, and career pressure can make it more difficult to get into and stay interested in sex; so can medications, alcohol, depression, and major illnesses.

 

Woman, what’s killing your sex drive?

When Joan had her baby last year, she was over the moon with joy. Her baby was healthy, happy, and beautiful. Seeing Jacob, her husband dote on the new infant made her heart melt. But something didn’t feel right. At 27, Joan’s sex drive had vanished. “It was like a switch went off in my head,” she describes. “I wanted sex one day, and after that there was nothing. I didn’t want sex. I didn’t think about sex.” At first, she told herself this disappearing act was normal. Then after a few months she tried to find answers. Everyone tried to help, but nothing changed. She and Jacob managed to have sporadic sex. Joan was just going through the motions. “The sex was gone, and a whole part of my life with it. Is this still normal? Joan wondered.

“Low libido is extremely prevalent in women,” asserts a reproductive endocrinologist. “If you just ask women, whether they are not that interested in having sex, easily 2 out of 5 will say yes.” But lack of sex drive alone isn’t a problem. While some women simply don’t want sex that often, low libido is often a temporary side effect of an external stressor, like a new baby or financial troubles. In order to be diagnosed with female sexual dysfunction, or what’s now sometimes called sexual interest/arousal disorder, women need to have low libido for at least six months and feel distressed about it. There are women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, who are otherwise healthy, happy, and in control of every area of their lives—except, suddenly, the bedroom.

 

What women wished men knew

Women are actually more prone than men to developing a flagging libido. Research shows that on the average 40 – 50 percent of women suffer bouts of low libido. A woman dodging out of sex, with the old excuse of having a headache or being too tired, is most likely trying to cover up her waning desire for sex.

Before the birth of her baby last year, Bola had a healthy appetite for sex and she and Ade, her spouse, couldn’t have enough of each other. In the first few months after their wedding, they were at it practically every day. Even when she became pregnant, the couple still managed to have a roll in the hay at least once every other day.

But everything has changed. The baby came and then, nothing. The fire has gone out and there is no spark again. Now, Bola has no sex drive to write home about and barely manages one sexual encounter in a week “just to please Ade” as she puts it.

Her doctor said it is not uncommon for a breastfeeding woman to experience a waning of desire due to the effect breastfeeding has on her hormones.

Another caveat for a woman that is breastfeeding is that her body produces higher levels of another hormone – Prolactin, which has tendency to suppress sexual desire. A breastfeeding woman also produces lower levels of testosterone – the male sex hormone that plays a major role in a woman’s overall libido. So in several ways, the issue of breastfeeding and libido is mixed blessings for women.

 

Sex drive and role of menopause

As women approach menopause, oestrogen levels decrease, which may lead to vaginal dryness and slower sexual arousal. Menopausal and post-menopausal women may notice that they’re not as easily aroused, and they may be less sensitive to touching and stroking. That can lead to less interest in sex. Also, lower levels of estrogen can affect vaginal lubrication, causing the vagina to be too dry for comfortable sex. Women wish many men knew how to make a woman readier.

Several other factors may influence a woman’s level of interest in sex during menopause and after. But does menopause lower sex drive in all women? The short answer is no. Some post-menopausal women say they’ve got an improved sex drive. That may be due to less anxiety linked to a fear of pregnancy. Also, many post-menopausal women often have fewer child-rearing responsibilities, allowing them to relax and enjoy intimacy with their partners.

 

What is a normal sex drive?

Now, if your sex drive isn’t raging, should you be concerned? Libido varies from person to person and between partners. Stereotypes exist, but sex drive is personal. Depending on age, stress level, relationship status, desire for sex can fluctuate. So how do you know if your libido is normal or otherwise? What is right and what is wrong? What can be done about it if something is wrong?

A sex therapist describes “normal” as an elastic word. “It depends on what the baseline libido is.” It may be normal for one person to desire sex once a day, and also completely normal for another individual to have zero libido.

A change in libido is only a problem when it’s a problem for one or both partners. A sex and relationship expert notes that it’s not uncommon for couples to have mismatched libidos. There’s really no “normal” amount one should desire sex. Libido is unique, but if you feel it swinging up or down the scale, some factors could be at play.

 

Libido: The testosterone connection

Testosterone, libido and sex are three of a kind. Though all are natural entities, the trio is physiologically different yet functionally similar. Each one revels in the strengths and weaknesses of the other two. Without one, the other two are irrelevant; the significance of one is intertwined with the identities of the other two.

Libido literally means “sexual desire”, “manifestation of sexual desire” or “desire to bind”. An enhanced libido is a sex thing because it has a direct uplifting effect on potency and desire (not necessarily ability) for sexual intercourse. However, the star of the show is testosterone – the male sex hormone that stimulates development of a man’s internal and external reproductive organs or genitals, enhances his sexual traits and triggers the formation of his sperm.

One of the most telling effects of a shot of testosterone is an increased libido. In a man or woman, libido is linked to levels of sex hormones, particularly testosterone. When a reduced sex drive occurs in an individual with relatively low levels of testosterone, for example post-menopausal women or men over age 60, testosterone supplements will often increase libido. For a man to “cock” and “fire” his sexual equipment, enhance the quality of penile erection, ejaculation and more, testosterone is the answer.

 

Mismatched libido

Medical experts are currently seeing more couples with the problem of low sex drive. Loss of sexual desire, clinically, is a recognised problem. Perhaps the commonest sexual complaints among couples are those of disparity in sexual desire. Couples in relationships marked by mismatched desire have a problem. A mismatch of sexual desire is actually a recipe for marital disaster.

Sexual desire can be low for a vast variety of reasons, ranging from psychological and interpersonal. But that doesn’t necessarily make it a disorder. It only becomes a diagnosable condition only when it diminishes the quality of one’s life and creates distress, or a disparity arises in the sex drives of partners, evolving into a matter of unresolved contention in the relationship.

A number of factors can shut off sexual desire, but whether lack of desire originates with husband or wife, the end result is the same. There is a lack of physical contact, which is experienced by the other partner as the ultimate rejection.

Abnormally low libido is relative. Underlying medical and psychological issues can depress libido to the point of non-existence. Medical conditions such as cancer or other chronic illnesses, for example, can understandably sap a person’s desire for sex. Psychological problems can also contribute to a diminished sex drive. Depression is a common cause of sexual dysfunction, and the treatment of depression doesn’t often help matters.

Research shows that certain antidepressants tend to lower sexual arousal more than others. Some women may experience decreased libido while on hormonal birth control, but reports aren’t consistent. Other psychological troubles of low libido include depression, stress, post-baby blues, and performance anxiety after not having sex for a long time, and poor self-image.

 

Sex drive: Men vs. Women

Do men really have stronger sex drives than women? The answer is a resounding yes, according to scientific research. Study after study shows that men’s sex drives are not only stronger than women’s, but much more straightforward. The sources of women’s libidos, by contrast, are much harder to pin down.

Talking about the issue of libido is not the easiest of topics and while losing interest in sex may not be as common an occurrence for men as it is for women, but when men lose interest in sex it is more serious than for women. Loss of libido makes men unhappier than women. A man’s masculinity is so linked to his sexuality that it is very threatening to his existence.

Lots of men have low sex drive, for a lot of reasons, some physical and some psychological. Sometimes both.

People normally differ in the degree of sexual appetite they have. There is no single standard of sexual desire, and desire differs not only from person to person but also in the same person over that person’s life span. Sexual desire and responsiveness normally differ between men and women, and assumptions of sexual equivalence may falsely suggest the existence of hypoactive desire disorder. Biologically, men are more readily aroused than women.

For a man, desire is tied tightly to physiologic arousal. Among women, sexual desire is typically more psychological and situational, influenced by how they feel about their bodies as well as to the quality of relationship with their partner. Moreover, women often do not experience desire until after they are genitally aroused, and arousal may require an extended period of foreplay. The waning of sexual desire is sometimes considered inevitable in a long-term relationship, but it is unclear whether that is truly the case or whether it is a function of age or familiarity. Low sexual desire can often be treated. Increasingly, experts are optimistic that the sexual spark can stay alive throughout the life span.

 

Help for libido loss

Fortunately, most cases of sexual dysfunction are treatable. There are libido boosters and enhancers, as well as hormonal treatment for men and women. A natural precursor of testosterone and estrogen known as Dehydroepiandrosterone or DHEA, may be taken orally for increasing libido. Unfortunately, it has no reliable scientific research backing. A number of natural vitamins, supplements and pills are also reputed to restore sex drive. Among these are Horny goat weed, Mucuna pruriens, and Tongkat ali herb.

Certain food items have a reputation as libido enhancers. They provide the essential fuel to spark sexual appetite and increase libido. These include, celery, which can be a fantastic source food for sexual stimulation because it contains androsterone, an odorless hormone released through male perspiration and turns women on.

Oysters are among the best known aphrodisiacs that are high in zinc, which raises sperm and testosterone production. Oysters also contain dopamine, a hormone known to increase libido. Not may people are aware that bananas contain the bromelain enzyme, which is believed to increase libido and reverse impotence in men. Avocado, also known as “testicle tree”, contains high levels vitamin B6 (a nutrient that increases male hormone production) and potassium (which helps regulate a woman’s thyroid gland). These two elements help increase libido in both men and women.

Almonds and nuts are a prime source of nutrients vital for a man’s healthy production of hormones. Additionally, the smell of almonds is purported to arouse passion in females.

The Managing Director, Sylken Limited, Uche Nwana decries the culture of silence around the problem of low libido in Nigeria. “Low libido is a common problem among women, in terms of sexual performance and it often affects marriages because those affected don’t speak out. It is actually a family affair.

Nwana who markets natural libido boosting supplements is on a campaign to break the silence around low libido by highlighting the facts surrounding the issue. He said the yearning of women is as vital as that of their male counterparts. Most women cannot speak out about sexual dysfunction due to cultural values. Essentially, people who lose their sex drive often find that they are not as happy or do not feel the magic in life as much as they wish to.

 

Morning  sex  boosts  immune system, cuts risk of stroke and makes you more attractive

 

IT’S time to stop pressing the snooze button because the morning is the best time of the day to get passionate with your partner.

According to sexual health and wellbeing expert Samantha Evans, getting frisky first thing brings a tonne of health benefits, including boosting mood and helping you look younger.

“Men accumulate testosterone as they sleep and from the time they wake up, they have a three hour window when they are brimming with testosterone,” she told Daily Star.

“That early morning erection is not called ‘morning wood’ or ‘morning glory’ for nothing.

“Whatever it is called, having an erection on waking up is as good a reason as any to initiate a little morning sex.”

Getting passionate first thing helps give the brain a boost too, meaning you’ll get over that sluggish, post sleep, feeling quicker than ever.

It’s also a good way to put your relationship first, as couples who are intimate regularly tend to feel more connected.

All that’s left is to get over the morning breath and any sweaty pongs which might be lurking.

That might seem hard, but a serious session should block out any fears about your partner’s hygiene.

“Adults who start their day with sex are more likely to be happier and healthier than those who start their day with a cup of coffee and breakfast,” Samantha added.

Morning romps can help improve your immune system, as people who get fruity one or more times a week tend to have higher levels of antibodies. These are the things which help ward off illness.

They’ll improve your mood, because orgasms increase levels of serotonin, the chemical that helps us feel jolly. Orgasms also help boost oestrogen levels, a hormone while helps skin and hair look glossy, plus a good romp will improve circulation.

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.